A/N I’m glad you all liked the whimsical features of the last chapter, but reality has to return this chapter I’m afraid!
You act like you wonder if I know, if I know right from wrong
Believe me, I understand
We all want the same things from this crowded room
But I am who I am
And I’m haunted by the things that you’re saying to me
As we smile into the faces of our enemies
And I’ll try to defend our lives, so you’ll understand that I won’t let you down
I get so defensive because I try so hard
Believe me I understand, I only ever got this far because I am who I am
And I’m haunted by the things that you’re saying to me
As we smile into the faces of our enemies
And I’ll try to defend our lives, I will try to defend our lives, so you’ll understand
That I won’t let you down
~ Defending Our Lives, Jon Heintz
It had been a while since I’d last claimed Sookie, and yet my little spitfire was still able to take all of me, still able to give as good as she got. I hadn’t planned on making love to her upon rising for the evening, but the fact she had been laying in bed beside me, completely naked, had swayed it for me. She’d been as responsive as ever, and I couldn’t help but feel smug about the fact I clearly wasn’t losing my touch. I could now remember the first time I had coaxed her legs open to pay homage to her core. She’d been so embarrassed and shy about it, and Compton had clearly deprived her of such pleasures. I was glad I was the one to enlighten her however, especially considering the fact that I hadn’t been the one to claim her body for the first time ever, as I should have been.
During my 1000 years I had witnessed an awful lot, from the normal to the extreme supernatural, but I had never been pulled into someone’s meditative state, never witnessed everything as they had, nor felt and smelt it as they had. It was like living in someone’s memories, and I was just glad that it had been Ata’s memories and not those of a stranger. In all honesty I hadn’t even noticed the fact the sun was blazing in the little dream world we were in. I’d been too busy observing my Childe in the sunshine, my bonded too. Of course I’d seen Sookie in the sunshine on the video we’d watched the night before, and when she’d come to rescue me from playing in the lake, but the sight of the sun in her hair, the way her tan glowed in the golden light, I would never tire of it.
Having been a Chieftain’s son, and having walked the earth for over 1000 years, I was well accustomed to greeting royalty, so I’d naturally fallen back on that when we’d been presented to Cleopatra and Julius. It wasn’t their appearance that had shocked me, I was well aware of Ata’s family line, but it was their mannerisms. They acted like every other couple, every other mother and father. They even acted a little childish at times. It was a far cry from the stories told of how he had battled on in Gaul, subjugating 300 tribes and destroying 800 cities, and how Cleopatra had seduced every man she had ever come into contact with, using her appearance to get her exactly what she wanted. It was easy to see where Ata had gained all of her qualities from though. She was strong and fierce like her father, but tender like her mother. She knew how to wrap people around her little finger and wasn’t afraid to use it. She’d wrapped my Maker firmly around her little finger for 2000 years; if that wasn’t an achievement then I had no idea what was.
I’d rather enjoyed witnessing Ancient Egypt, not just because I was a fan of history but because it was where my Maker had started out his life, in some sense. He’d been a child when he’d been brought to Egypt, and he had grown up there, submerged in their culture and religion, integrating himself within their system and with the people. I felt like I had a deeper understanding of my Maker and Ata now, and why they did or said certain things. My little conversation with Cleopatra and Julius, with Godric by my side, had certainly been surprising, and rather interesting too, but I had sworn to keep everything I had heard a secret. I would never break a promise to my Maker, let alone a promise to two 2000-year-old rulers.
Meeting Anubis, or Ata’s idea of Anubis – I wasn’t sure which – had made me remember my own Gods, how I’d prayed to them every night for the next day to be prosperous, thanked them for all they had given me. It had been some time since I had last actually sat and prayed to them. After 1000 years religion had started to bore me. The thought of getting to see them should I meet the true death, to be allowed into Valhalla, it was reassuring to say the least. The thought that Ata had begged one of her own Gods to ask Sookie’s and mine to let us rest peacefully in the afterlife and be together warmed me. It seemed to be a Brigant trait for the women to be so kind of heart. I had initially worried over the strange man’s presence, given how Ata had informed us it was an ‘invitation only’ gathering, but it seemed that the Gods were so deeply engrained in Ata, and in my Maker if his mutterings while trailing his fingers over the carvings of the Egyptian Gods on the way in were anything to go by, that they would always find a way to be in contact with them, to help them and give them hope. My mother had once told me, after we’d prayed together one evening, that if we don’t have faith, or trust, or hope, then we have nothing. It’s faith, trust and hope that keep us going, that pushes us to be the best we can be. At the time I had simply absorbed her words, not really understanding why it was important, but I could see now that she was right. I hoped we would be able to defeat Russell, and therefore I was willing to give it my all, and even meet the true death, in order to see him fall. I had faith that we would succeed, we had a strong team around us who each brought something special to our group, and I trusted each and every individual within the new nest I had found myself a part of. There was a saying, which Mark Shields once used; there is always strength in numbers, the more individuals or organisations that you can rally to your cause, the better.
Little Caesarion had been an entertaining boy, and he reminded me of myself so much when I had been that age. The way he threatened me, a vampire who, although 1000 years younger, had the advantages of immortality and all the powers that came with it, had made me smile. The protectiveness he showed for his sister and Sookie was a quality that made me proud of the young boy. He’d lost his father when he’d been so young, he’d relied heavily on his mother and sister, and he’d been forced to be the man of the house. It was apparent that, even back then, the men had been fiercely protective of the women in their family. The way he had thrown himself at my Maker and embraced him so readily, not at all phased by the fangs he now sported, it gave me hope that perhaps teacup humans in our world would start to accept vampires and other supernatural creatures. Our existences would be so much easier if we were accepted by the world, and the only way to gain acceptance would be to educate the young ones, who would in turn educate their own in the same way. Of course you would always get a few idiots like Steve Newlin, but they were few and far between.
When Godric had sat on the throne, taking Ata and Caesarion with him, I’d felt a pang of longing. They looked like a family, perfectly comfortable on a throne. The way they had all clung to one another, showing the deep bonds they had with one another, had me craving for such a thing myself. I would never be able to give Sookie my own child by birth, but if she wanted to adopt then I would happily oblige. Hell if she wanted to sport a bump I would even go as far as helping her select a donor, so long as he and I physically matched. I would want the world to know the small one was mine. He would have a full head of blonde hair and bright blue eyes, hopefully the same shade as my Sookie’s. He’d grow up to be tall and strong, like me, but he’d have the tenderness of his mother, her glass half full outlook on life.
It was a strange sensation, suddenly going from the warm, sunny Egypt in Ata’s meditative state to the cool, dark training room in Nevada. Thankfully the balance I had gained from my immortality stopped me from falling flat onto my behind as Sookie had. Helping her back up onto her knees, into a kneeling position, I turned my attention to Ata, who lifted her head to reveal a small smile. I took a moment to take in her physical appearance, as did everyone else in the line of vampires and fairies, and found myself concerned by her gaunt frame and lacklustre skin. The events of last night, and the events of the day, had taken its toll on her. Godric’s concern was practically flooding our bond.
“If one tries to navigate unknown waters, one runs the risk of shipwreck.” She quoted one of the riddles her parents had given her a few nights back. I could remember them all clearly, though why she was repeating them was beyond me.
Her eyes drifted along the lines either side of her for a moment before she looked out of the window over Vegas. “We need to send someone into Felipe’s mansion to spy for us. We need to be prepared for the storm.” She murmured before she rose to her feet, slowly collecting the mat from the floor, which she returned to the store cupboard, closing it behind her.
“Whom do we send in?” Pam questioned in a soft voice, the concern she felt for Ata’s fragile state didn’t go unnoticed by either Godric or myself.
“I’m not sure yet, lets go and see to our guests before we discuss this further.” The Egyptian responded softly, heading towards the door that led downstairs. Godric vamped to her side, taking her hand in his own before they descended the staircase.
“It’s peior quam nos sententia.” Riei murmured as he stood up on his feet, his brothers following afterwards. Ari kept a hold of Pam’s hand as he stood, and my Childe allowed him to help her up.
“Does she go there a lot?” Sookie asked Khai as he wandered past us towards the door.
“Only when she needs answers, or time to heal from something.” The old vampire responded to my love with a small smile, disappearing down the staircase with his brothers.
“I kind of felt healed there too, you know. I realised just how much we all have to lose and that I want to fight for it all, perfect my fae powers so I can defend you and protect myself.” Sookie looked up to me as we headed towards the door also.
“Lover, I can protect us both, don’t worry about that.” I dropped a kiss to the top of her head, feeling her annoyance through the bond.
“No, Eric.” She tugged my hand sharply, making me stop. “Just look at Ata. She had the whole world at her feet but she had no clue about her powers, she had no idea how to control them, she was unable to fight for her family and they all died. She lost everything because she had no idea about what she could do. I refuse to lose anyone else, or anything else.” The conviction in her voice caused me to pause for thought for a moment. While I wanted her to know how to defend herself, so that she could fend off attacks until I could help, the thought of her battling it out against Russell, or anyone else for that matter, made my heart lurch. I wanted to lock her away and protect her from the world. If my Sookie was hurt then so was I. But, I realised, Compton had locked her away from the world, refused to tell her anything, and look where it got them – shouting at one another on her porch, with him being exiled from her life. I wouldn’t be able to cope if she kicked me out of her life.
It was becoming harder for me to say no to her, to argue with her and try to get my own way. I decided a compromise was best. “Okay, continue training because I think that’s important, and if you feel you must then fight alongside us, but if I tell you to run, or to get the hell out of there or whatever else then you listen to me. Don’t question my judgment, don’t stall and wait for me, just run. We’re bonded. I’ll be able to find you no matter where you go. I just don’t want you hurt, Sookie. You mean too much to me. Deal?” I offered. My Sookie wasn’t one to run and hide, but Russell was a psycho, a 3000-year-old psycho at that, who had a newfound craving for fae blood.
Sookie watched me for a moment, seemingly mulling over my proposition. “Fine.” She sighed, relenting.
“You say you can’t lose anyone else, well I can’t lose you. Thank you.” I murmured as I pressed another kiss to the top of her head. Together we padded down the stairs, just in time to see Isabel and Edgar emerge from the elevator. Ata was sat on the middle barstool and Flo was placing a plate of food down in front of her.
“Good evening, did you sleep well?” Ari slipped into the role of gracious host almost as perfectly as my Sookie did. He and Pam had parted for the time being, and my Childe was sat on one of the barstools next to Ata, both of them looking over the pieces of paper with the riddles on that Pam had written up the previous night.
“Very well thank you Ari, your establishment is incredible. I can’t believe I haven’t stayed here before!” Edgar grinned at the Egyptian vampire as Isabel nodded in agreement. Sookie let go of my hand, moving towards her cousin where she took the other vacant barstool.
“What on earth is that?” She asked, wrinkling her nose as she took in the meal placed before Ata, who was tucking in without the use of a knife and fork.
“It’s pigeon with ful medames,” she pointed to some bean shaped objects, “and nut grass.” She gestured to some tube shaped objects on the plate. “It’s a dish we used to serve a lot back home.” She shrugged her shoulders, picking up a piece of nut grass to chew on. “We don’t use knives and forks either, we used to eat with our hands a lot.” She explained, nibbling on the nut grass. Sookie was watching her eat curiously, so Ata offered her the un-nibbled end of the tube she was eating. Sookie took a small and cautious bite, but her moan of appreciation, plus the pleasure flooding our bond, had me thinking for a moment that I was between her legs once again!
“You can have your own plate Miss Sookie.” Flo laughed, popping a plate down in front of my beloved who tucked in without a knife and fork too. “Miss Ata has probably eaten her entire body weights worth of this today, and drank at least half of the sea!” She shook her head, returning to the washing up.
“How are you feeling today, Ata?” Isabel approached her with Edgar, a look of concern on their features.
“Much better than last night. Ludwig came by this morning, told me I would eat and drink a lot today, she also told me it’ll take a while for all our bonds to settle.” Ata stated once she’d swallowed her mouthful, turning on the chair to face us all. I took a moment to assess the bond I now shared with her and found her perfectly content, if not a little hungry. Godric seemed to have the same idea, and I could see him tap into their bond, but the frown that settled on his features worried me.
“My sweet, check our bond.” He instructed her, moving to stand before her.
A light frown settled on her features as she concentrated on it before she gasped. “It’s weak! It’s, like,” she stammered, eyes-wide.
“A first level bond.” My Maker finished her sentence for her, immediately biting into his wrist and offering it to her. Without a second thought she took it, latching on and taking deep pulls. Sweeping her hair from her neck, he eased his fangs in, taking pulls from her too. They seemed to be able to control themselves, given the number of vampires in the room, and soon they were both pulling away from one another, licking their lips clean. “Why did that happen?” Godric mused, pursing his lips together.
“It might be, because she was drained down so far, your blood was taken with it?” Oeri suggested, stepping closer to observe Ata for a moment. “It might also be why she looked so ill. Mother’s body was used to having a second level bond with you and it was suddenly taken from her.” He continued. Even I had to admit that her skin was starting to gain a little more colour now, and she didn’t look as gaunt.
“It doesn’t matter, we have our second level bond back now.” She said with a smile to my Maker, who dropped a kiss to her forehead.
“Urm Ata, Felipe is down in the lobby asking for you and Ari.” Egor shuffled nervously on his feet. Although our bond was only weak, I could feel Ata’s apprehension and annoyance clearly.
“Everyone wait here.” She instructed, slipping off of her barstool.
“I’ll be fine.” I heard Ari whisper, turning in time to see him reassuring Pam who was stood before him, holding his hand tightly. I smiled at the sight of my cold-hearted Childe caring for another vampire other than Godric and I. Was my Pamela thawing out?
“I will too.” Godric spoke up, taking a stand next to me. For a moment Ata looked us both up and down before sighing, nodding her head. Turning to the elevator, she stepped inside. Godric, Ari and I followed after her.
“Sookie, eat what’s on my plate, it’ll probably be cold by the time we return.” Ata ordered, taking my beloved’s health into consideration. I was constantly forgetting to feed her. For 1000 years I had gone without food. It would take some getting use to, but I would make a conscious effort for Sookie’s sake. The trip down to the ground floor was silent and tension filled, but Ari had removed a small hairbrush from his jacket and had untangled all the tangles from Ata’s hair in order to make it smooth and glossy, to give the illusion she was okay.
Stepping out of the elevator, we all allowed Ata to go first, and she led the way to the lobby where Felipe stood with four human guards. It took all of my inner strength not to charge the bastard and stake him for his actions against Ata, and thus Godric, last night. I could feel that Godric was barely holding onto his anger too. “Miss Caesar.” I noted how he went back to formal address. “Ari Seti-Nekht is under arrest for treason. Silver him.” He ordered his guards who started to approach with silver chains.
Ata was before Ari instantly, arms out to shield him behind her. “You are not placing one hand on my boy.” She snarled at the monarch, who quirked an eyebrow at her.
“I want him so I will take him.” Felipe spouted like a spoilt child.
“You are not taking my brother.” I growled, moving to stand defensively before Ari. Godric was quick to join me. Ari had welcomed Godric with open arms and had referred to him as his Master last night; although he only had a hint of Godric’s blood in him he was still 100% my brother. All of Ata’s boys were.
“I am a king and he hurled me across my own house last night. He is to be arrested and put on trial.” He stated.
With speed I was sure human/fae hybrids didn’t have, Ata had Felipe pinned to the nearest wall by the throat, causing some guests staying in the hotel to squeal loudly and run out of the lobby. Her face was inches from the monarch’s and I swore her teeth were ever so slightly pointed, like Claudine’s had been when I had drained her. “And I am a queen. If you dare to take my Childe from me I will rain holy hell down on you and all those you care about. I will bring my people into this and start a goddamn fucking war with Nevada. I will rip out your fangs and wear them as earrings. I will stake you in your day rest and then fuck my bonded on your goo.” She hissed as Egor, Agmund, Riei and Oeri emerged from the lift, grabbing all of Felipe’s human guards, holding them still in their vice-like grips.
Ata laughed at his comment, and it was similar to the laughter I had heard when I had gone over the Fangtasia security system, when Sookie had been pouring Talbot’s remains down the drain. It was dark, manic, unhinged. “Ancient, dark blood magic made him my Childe, and you will not have him. He is ten times the vampire you could ever hope to be.”
“Guards! Take the slave boy instead!” He demanded of his security, not quite realising they weren’t going anywhere. The anger that consumed my Maker at the title he had held in his human years was almost indescribable, and he vamped towards the young monarch, taking him by the throat instead of Ata whose arms dropped to her side.
“You were going to give my bonded your blood last night and that’s a blood offence. I could kill you for it now and you wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.” Godric’s fangs were down, as were my own, and I took the opportunity to vamp to Ata, placing myself between her and Felipe to keep her safe. Ari had the same idea and joined me moments later.
“The Authority would have something to say about it!” Felipe was grasping at straws, struggling under my Maker’s hold.
“You just so happened to have the exact cure to Ata’s illness in your jacket pocket last night. Pray tell, why did you have it on you? You clearly knew what was going to happen, you obviously had it planned, and the Authority, upon hearing that, will order your execution.” I spat, taking an angry step forward, ensuring I was covering Ata enough so that, should Felipe attack, she wouldn’t be hurt. Power really went to vampire’s heads these days; Compton was getting far to big for his boots too. The year Sookie had been away, although an emotional nightmare for me, had been a political one too. He’d always wanted reports on his desk by a certain night at a certain time, he was always snooping around either my bar or Sookie’s house and he even went as far as to try and overtax me a few times. I’d had to graciously point out he was charging me more than the other Sheriff’s, and he’d growled about it for a few months. I was old, but I wasn’t stupid.
“A pure coincidence.” Felipe stated, as if that would be enough.
“Ari, as your Maker I command you to never go with Felipe, or any of his guards, anywhere near his palace or any other of his establishments.” Ata dropped the Maker’s command, which of course Ari would be forced to obey. Felipe growled lowly, thrashing against the wall.
“I’m going to let you go now, and you’re going to leave here without causing a scene. You’re not going to bother us and you won’t do something incredibly ridiculous like send in Were’s during the day again, okay?” A low smirk crossed over my Maker’s features as he dropped the baby vampire, letting him land with a thud on the floor.
“What happened to my Were’s?” he demanded, rising back up onto his feet.
“I killed them. They’re in the city morgue right now.” Ata responded from beside me with a shrug.
“Yeah yeah, I’ve heard that before. If you’ve got a problem take it up with the Ancient Pythoness. Have a nice night.” Ata dismissed him. Riei, Oeri, Egor and Agmund were growling after him, fangs down, practically chasing him out of the hotel.
“You should have let him take me, mother. Now we have to worry about him.” Ari approached Ata slowly. I could feel her pulling her emotions under control, trying to calm herself down..
“I would never let him take you, my son. Come here.” She ordered gently, pulling him into her embrace, which he readily returned. Parting a moment later, Ata’s fingers caressed his cheek and he purred happily, closing his eyes to relish in his touch.
“Go back up with your brothers, I will join you in a moment.” She told him, gently nudging him towards Riei, Oeri, Egor and Agmund, who all pulled him into the elevator.
“Thank you for defending him.” Ata thanked both my Maker and I the moment the lift doors were closed.
“He’s family.” Godric stated.
“And we’ll do anything for family.” I added looking down to the Egyptian woman sandwiched between Godric and I.
“You picked well.” Ata’s eyes shifted to me, though it was clear she was talking to Godric. I primped a little under the praise, enjoying the compliment.
“Miss Caesar?” A scrawny redhead, who gave wary looks to both Godric and I before returning her attention to her employer, interrupted us. “You received a delivery today, a box came for you.” She stated as she led the three of us over to the check-in desks, where she produced a medium sized parcel box. “We also received a delivery for a Miss Sookie Stackhouse, but I checked the booking details and we don’t have a Miss Stackhouse staying here, there wasn’t a return address either. What do you want me to do with it?” She asked, producing a large parcel box with my bonded’s name on it and the hotels address.
The three of us frowned, taking in both boxes. “I didn’t order anything, unless Riei has been shopping again.” Ata justified her box, but it was Sookie’s that had me worried the most. No one knew she was here, we hadn’t even told her brother of her location. Collecting the box anyway, Godric took Ata’s as she thanked her employee. Together we entered the elevator, each of us lost in thought on the way up. Pam hadn’t been surprise shopping for Sookie had she?
Entering the penthouse, all eyes turned to our parcels and us. “Post?” Oscar frowned.
“A box for me and one for Sookie.” Ata responded as Godric and I placed the boxes down on the kitchen counter, which had been cleared now that Sookie had consumed the food that Ata had left behind. Sookie rose from her spot on the sofa and I felt her confusion.
“I didn’t order anything.” She murmured as Ata handed her a Stanley knife to cut into the box. Both fae women cut through the tape on the top of the box, and Ata extracted a fruit basket wrapped in cellophane from hers.
“Fruit?” She muttered with a quirked eyebrow. Pulling at the ribbon that held the cellophane together at the top, the cellophane fell away from the wicker basket. There was quite the arrangement of fruit in it, including lemons. “What a tasteless joke.” Ata muttered under her breath, picking up the fig next to it. My vampire vision enabled me to see everything in slow motion, so the moment an asp launched itself out of the fruit arrangement I was able to grasp it just behind its head, it’s mouth open, fang gleaming, aiming for Ata’s neck. She shrieked loudly as Godric pushed her behind him. He’d been willing to take the bite for her. Ata’s hand went to her mouth as she sobbed at both the surprise, and the meaning behind it. I wasn’t an expert in Egyptian history, but everyone was well aware of Cleopatra’s suicide by asp. There was a note on the basket, which managed to catch my eye. “Your mothers death was a beautiful thing to witness. I only hope yours is the same.”
“Sookie, don’t!” I ordered as my bonded opened her box, but I was too late. The cardboard fell away to reveal a crystal jar, exactly like the one Talbot’s remains had been in. Inside the jar were two photographs. Quickly crushing the asp’s head in my hand I threw it into the sink, just as Ari and Godric managed to calm the weeping Ata.
I could feel Sookie’s terror in our bond, and slowly she removed the lid, extracting the two photographs. I was by her side in an instant, looking over her shoulder at the images. One was of her brother out in Bon Temp and had clearly been taken outside his home; the other was of a small, brown haired boy with dark chocolate eyes, out playing in the park in the middle of the day. Sookie’s fear made my blood run cold, which was quite a feat given that it was already cold, and slowly she turned the images over.
Sookie dropped the photos onto the counter as if they were on fire, stumbling backwards. Pam caught her, supporting her small weight as she too clamped her hand over her mouth, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I need to get to Hunter and Jason!” She dashed from Pam, running towards the bedroom. I could tell what she was doing; she was going to get her coat and shoes. As if she could get to Bon Temp and back by herself. Ata was still stood by the sink, looking down at the dead asp, a blank expression on her features. “Russell killed my mother.” She murmured.
Deciding that Godric would take care of Ata, I took off in the direction of the bedroom after Sookie, catching up with her as she was pulling on her shoes.
“You can’t go.” I stated, taking her jacket from her.
“I can’t let you do this! This is what Russell wants. He wants us all to be separated.” I tried to reason with her, but reason wasn’t winning out. Sookie was working on autopilot, trying to save everyone and once again risking herself.
“I can’t just leave them, Eric! What if Russell takes them? He’ll hurt Jason and drain Hunter!” She was screaming at me, and the high-pitched tone of her voice was starting to hurt my sensitive eardrums. Pushing past me, she snatched her jacket from me, exiting our room. Heading in the direction of the living area, I kept up with her, following closely behind her.
“I won’t allow you to do this! Stop there and come back here, now.” I ordered her, using the tone Pam liked to refer to as my ‘Sheriff’ tone. Sookie stopped dead in her tracks all right, but the moment she turned to look at me I knew I’d said the wrong thing. She looked just as angry and feisty as she had the time she had raised a hand to me.
“I am not your pet, Eric Northman. I am your bonded and therefore we are equals. You do not get to tell me what to do.” I was sure she was about to stomp her foot like those spoilt children on the TV do when they don’t get their way. Opening my mouth, I was about to try and convince her to listen to me, to try and tell her that I didn’t think of her as a pet, when Ata spoke instead.
“Sookie, we have a few trusted vampire friends in New Orleans. We can send them to get Jason and Hunter right now if you want?” Ata offered. I could feel the conflict Sookie was experiencing. On the one hand she wanted to go and get her brother and Hunter herself, but on the other hand she was well aware of how dangerous it would be. I could feel her worry, her sadness, and her guilt that they had been drawn into this. “They would be brought here right away, next flight out. They’ll be safe here. I can even place the jinn in Hunter’s mind so he’ll be protected from vampire thoughts.” Ata reasoned, placing a cautious hand on Sookie’s arm. I could feel Ata’s own pain through her weak bond. Russell Edgington had murdered her mother. The asp was no accident; just like the asp in her fruit basket this evening was no accident.
Standing in the middle of the living area, the conflict on my Sookie’s features was so apparent. “They’re all I have, Ata.” Sookie’s voice was meek, feeble. It was a tone I disliked hearing coming from her. My bonded was a little spitfire. She wasn’t weak.
“You have all of us now, but I know and I understand how you feel. Let me get Henry, Jade and Oswald on it.” Ata nodded to Khai, who pulled out his phone, starting to make calls to the vampires needed. Removing Sookie’s jacket, Ata placed it over the back of one of the sofas.
“I think we need to start solving all of these riddles we were left. You’ve already started on some of them during the day Ata.” Pam spoke up, picking up the pieces of paper she had been looking over earlier while Ata had been eating.
“Riei could you…?” Ata started, and her Childe seemed to know instantly what she wanted as he moved to the sink, taking out the dead asp. He grabbed the fruit basket too as the items could have been tampered with. He left the penthouse with them, taking the crystal jar too. I assumed he would find a room downstairs to place it in, just so long as it was away from Sookie.
“Oeri, can you ring Amelia for me please? I want her to come over and ward the house. Tell her I want her here this evening and will pay her whatever it takes. I also want a protection charm created for Sookie.” She instructed another of her children.
“You need a protection charm too.” Godric looked to Ata before turning his attention to Oeri. “Can you ask this Amelia to make another for Ata?” he inquired, to which the vampire nodded, pulling his phone out to start making his own calls.
“Miss Ata, I don’t want to leave your side, but I’m real hungry.” Bubba spoke up. Amongst all the drama and chaos most of us had forgotten that he was around, that Isabel and Edgar were around too.
“Of course Bubba, I’m sorry. Go on, go feed.” She offered the mentally challenged vampire a kind smile, which he returned before he embraced her, thanking her profusely before he entered the lift with Riei.
“I suppose my entourage will be wondering where on earth I am.” Edgar sighed, rising from his spot on the sofa with a sympathetic smile.
“Thank you for helping me last night.” Ata murmured as the King of California pulled her into his embrace.
“Hey, you scratch my back and I scratch yours eh? Besides, being able to locate you and feel your emotions is like a breath of fresh air! Who knew human emotions was so strong?” He gave a cheeky grin to Ata before taking her hand, placing a kiss onto the back of it. “If you require help in bringing down either Felipe or Russell, you know where I am. I own the third largest state in America. I have plenty of resources at my disposal, little princess.” He offered, giving both Godric and I polite nods as farewells. I was surprised my Maker hadn’t lost it with how touchy feely Edgar was with Ata, but I could only guess that he was more than happy for it given how much of a strong ally he would be. Nevada was the seventh largest state in America, so Edgar had quite a bit of power over Felipe.
“It was an absolute delight to meet you Miss Stackhouse, though the circumstances in which we met were rather unfortunate. I do hope to hear from you soon and, should you and your bonded ever find yourselves in California, please don’t hesitate to come and visit me.” He looked between Sookie and I before departing from the penthouse.
“I told my second in command to take over for a few weeks. You’re not getting rid of me that easily.” Isabel grinned from her spot on the couch, causing Sookie to laugh quietly. We all started to arrange ourselves on the sofas and the chairs that Ari, Egor and Agmund had arranged in the centre of the room, though some of us would be forced to sit on the floor. That wasn’t of concern to a vampire though; we didn’t get numb behinds from sitting on solid floors for hours on end.
“Okay, we all know that we need to send someone into Felipe’s mansion, but the question is, who do we send in?” Pam started off; having crossed off that riddle on the piece of paper as Ata had solved it earlier in the day. Her scribble of ‘Need a spy in Felipe’s mansion’ had been jotted down in red ink beside it.
“Well I can’t go, obviously. Ari, Riei, Khai, Oeri, Egor and Agmund can’t go as Felipe will suspect something otherwise.” Ata started to mentally tick people off the list as I settled on one end of the sofa opposite her. Sookie wandered past me, as if going to sit somewhere else, but I wouldn’t allow it. Pulling her onto my lap, I wrapped my arms around her tightly as Ata continued with the list, ticking off Godric, Sookie and I.
“I know you’re not a pet, min kärlek, and I would never wish for you to be so. I just don’t want you to get hurt, and you keep throwing yourself into dangerous situations without thinking about it.” I thought towards Sookie, not wanting the others to hear our private conversation.
“I once told Pam I would never be your puppet, she told me you ‘pull good string.’” She told me, and I couldn’t help but smile at my Childe’s response. It was so typically Pam. “They’re my family, Eric, all that’s left of the Stackhouse line, that’s why I want to help them so much. Jason use to take all the beatings at school from all the bullies ‘cause he use to stick up for me, he use to fend off those who called me ‘Crazy Sookie’ and told me I belonged in a mental home. Hunter is just a kid, he doesn’t know anything about the supernatural world. He’s alone and scared.” She tried to make me see her point of view, and I could see it from her perspective, but she needed to see it from mine too. “I know you don’t want me to be hurt, heck I don’t want to be hurt. Do you know I have spent more time in a hospital ever since you guys ‘came of the coffin’ than I ever had in my entire life before? I wasn’t even born in a hospital.” She explained to me. The thought of Sookie being in hospital because of vampires, because of Compton and his stupidity, made me tighten my hold on her. She would never enter a hospital ever again, unless it was for a joyous occasion such as the birth of our child – should they be adopted or created by sperm donation.
“I love you, Sookie. Please start to trust me with these things. You need to start thinking things through rather than running off guns’ a blazin’, I’ve survived for over 1000 years. I know what I’m doing. I know what is and isn’t a good idea.” I tried to reason with her, reassure her.
I received mental silence for a moment before I finally got the response I wanted. “I trust you, Eric, and I love you too.” I smiled, pleased with her answer.
“That leaves only Bubba and Isabel really.” Ata sighed, having ticked off most of the people on the list.
“And me.” Oscar offered quietly, nervously biting his lower lip. All of us turned to look at the baby vampire who was sat by Ata’s feet. My Maker had taken a seat on the sofa, pulling Ata onto his lap, much like he had when we had been in her meditative state earlier.
“Oscar, sweetheart, you’re a little young to be playing politics and risking your life don’t you think?” Ata addressed the newborn with a tender tone, a motherly and affectionate smile on her lips.
“Which is why I’d be perfect for it. Felipe doesn’t know I’m staying here, he’ll probably only remember me from the dispute. I could tell him that I tried to find another Maker but was unsuccessful and that I would like to join his royal court, or work in the palace for him, in order to learn more about the vampire world and to become a better vampire. I can feed him lies about how I look up to him and stuff, play on the fact I’m so young. He’ll think little of me because of my age, so he won’t see me as a threat. I’ll be able to get information and then get out. If you were able to give me those contact lens things I would even be able to let you see what was going on.” Oscar suggested. I had to admit, it was rather clever. No one would suspect the baby vampire of betraying Felipe. They would assume he would be too afraid to do such a thing. He would be the perfect choice for the little mission, but the cost should he be found out would be great.
“You would meet the true death though should he find out, Oscar.” Ari pointed out. The little vampire nodded his head in understand, shrugging his shoulders.
“I know, but I’m young, I don’t have many attachments on this earth. The only people I’m attached to are you guys, but your bonds with one another are much deeper than the bonds I have with you.” He looked up at Ata, smiling reassuringly. “If you were to lose one of your boys, or your bonded, or those from his bloodline, it would hurt you far more than it would if you were to lose me.”
“Oh sweetie,” I watched as Ata’s face fell, as she scooped down to pick up the baby vampire. Clearly the amount of blood in her veins was making her stronger. “I would miss you, we all would. You’re a part of this nest too.” She reassured the youngster.
“I’m going in and that’s that. I’ve watched lots of spy movies, played all the games on my Xbox 360, I know what I’ve got to do.” He stated with conviction, giving a nod of his head.
Sighing and chewing her bottom lip, Ata threw in some stipulations. “First sign of danger, you get the hell out of there and come here. Also, you cannot smell like any of us in any way possible, so starting tomorrow night I want as little physical contact as possible. You need to smell like yourself, or else he might suspect something. Felipe’s nose is incredibly sharp.” Ata lay down the ground rules, to which Oscar nodded happily. I was still trying to figure out what the fuck an Xbox 360 was. Was it sex related in any way? Usually that’s what x’s stood for, but then that would be wrong for a young boy to be playing spy games on something sex related.
“It’s a video gaming console, brother.” I heard Ari respond to my mental musings, and looking over to the Egyptian vampire, who was once again holding Pam’s hand, I could see him trying to suppress his laughter.
“So it’s not sex related?” I wanted confirmation. I was up to date with some modern technology. I had the latest iPhone and used Mac computers and such at the bar and at my homes, I also had the best TV’s and DVD players out there, but everything else technology wise eluded me.
“Well, it has been known to make the nerds who play them orgasm spontaneously.” A huge wave of mental laughter bombarded my brain, and I realised that all of Ata’s boys had been listening in on the conversation. Shaking my head, I returned my mind to the actual conversation at hand.
“Amelia will be here in half an hour or so to start crafting charms for you and Sookie, and to ward the penthouse.” Oeri took the break in conversation to relay his message.
“Amelia is originally from New Orleans, her father is a very wealthy and well known building contractor in the lumber business. She started learning the craft a few years back and has becoming exceptionally good at it, I’d say she’s up there with some of the most powerful this side of the Atlantic. I met her during Mardi Gras and told her she’d find far more work over here, especially out in California too. She decided to settle in my area and, suffice to say, business is booming for her.” Ata explained to all of us who had no idea who Amelia was, allowing Oscar to wiggle off of her lap and sit on the floor once again. Spotting an opportunity, my Maker pulled Ata flush to his chest, holding her tightly.
“I have Henry and Oswald going to look for Hunter, and I sent Jade to Jason. I figured, and I’m sorry if this sounds rude, that Jason would more than likely listen to a woman if she told him to come with her.” Khai explained to the group. I had to stop myself from laughing at his method of delegation. If there was one thing I knew for certain about Jason Stackhouse it was that he would follow anything with breasts. Sookie seemed to know that too.
“You’re right. Good thinking.” She laughed, clearly not offended by the fact Khai had basically just told her he thought of her brother as a man whore. Then again, I suppose all of the male vampires present, bar little Oscar and Godric, could be classed as man whores. Odin knows how many women I’ve fucked over the years. But that was all they were – fucks. I never made love to any women before my Sookie, not even my wife in my human years.
“Do you think we should look into Pallas’s riddle now? I mean, I’m not negating from the importance of the proverbs your parents gave us. The information from Pallas’s riddle is a little more detailed.” Egor suggested, having taken a seat in front of the elevator with Agmund. The chairs in the living area were positioned in such a manner however that we could all still see them.
We all nodded in agreement as Pam picked up the paper with the riddle on, clearing her throat before speaking.
“Three houses bound together, all four of immortal blood. Two sets of two that share a tie, combining all around together. One is ancient, majestic, full of joyful cheer, Two has much to learn, Three is wise beyond his years, and Four once tried to burn. Now four people, all of power, try to part the four. With thousands of years between them all, this riddle they will solve. One of them has used you, one of them has abused you, one of them wants to watch you fall. Deception and lies go hand in hand, but brutal truths can really hurt. Do not lash out at those you love, but seek revenge for those you lost. When the moon waxes all of this will end, new powers will be used and promised gifts will make amends. A sacrifice must be made, a selfless one at that. Time will heal the marks remaining, but only love will heal thy heart. In the house of royalty four will fight, yet only two will leave.”
“Let’s start with the first line. Three houses bound together, all four of immortal blood. Okay, houses can be somewhere you live, or it can be a family or family lineage, especially a noble or royal one, a dynasty.” Isabel started off for us.
“We have the house of Brigant, that fits all of us. Without Niall, Mab would have never been queen at all, and her sons were your fathers.” Ata offered, gesturing to Godric and I.
“We have Ata’s family, they come from the Ptolemaic dynasty.” Oscar added.
“But we have a final one…” Godric mused. Everyone fell into silence for a moment. Using the silence to my advantage I traced back through what I knew of Sookie’s human heritage, trying to locate any royalty. The moment Compton had become defensive with his whole ‘mine’ spiel at Fangtasia I’d instructed a few of the best private investigators to go back through Sookie’s family tree, to find out whatever they could. It was no better than the secret file Bill had kept on her, but I needed to know why he was so defensive of her, so adamant to keep her. It was only when Hadley had broken down and told me of their heritage that everything had fallen into place. I knew little of my Maker’s human years, he had never openly spoken about them before his sudden quest for redemption so I was unsure if he was part of the final ‘house.’ I turned my attention to myself and then it hit me, the whole reason why all of this shit had started, what the final house was.
“It’s me.” I stated quietly, everyone’s eyes turning to me as I worked through it in my mind. “My family is the final house, my father was the Chieftain of our people. Russell stole my family’s crown and murdered my family, and I’ve been on a personal vendetta ever since. It’s my fault he’s still alive because I didn’t end him when I had the chance to. I was too consumed with my need to make him suffer as I had. This all started, his mad rage on the TV and his taste for Sookie’s blood, because I didn’t end him.” It all fell into place, and I heard Pam scribbling down my conclusion onto the piece of paper, but my mind was elsewhere. I should have ended him when I’d had the chance, but I’d been so consumed by my rage and the satisfaction of seeing him burnt to a crisp and under silver that I hadn’t stopped to think about the consequences. Russell had told me, when I’d been about to bury him, that I would regret it.
“All four of immortal blood. Well, that’s self-explanatory. Two vampires and two fae women who have their soul mates – said vampires.” Riei commented as Pam scribbled more notes down on the paper, marking it up for future reference.
“Two sets of two that share a tie, combining all around together” Pam quoted the riddle once more.
“Sookie and I, Godric and Ata. We’re bonded pairs, two sets of two.” I answered the first half.
“Combining all together.” Oeri stated the second half of the line. “Ata brought my brothers and I into this, and you brought Pam into this. Not to mention that you knew both Egor and Agmund in your human years.” He addressed me before turning to Godric. “You brought Isabel into this.” Finally he turned to Sookie, “and you’re bringing Jason and Hunter into this. Everyone is linkable back to one, or more, of you.” Oeri solved it logically, Pam’s scribbling continuing on.
“One is ancient, majestic, full of joyful cheer. Two has much to learn. Three is wise beyond his years, and Four once tried to burn. “ Ari read aloud.
“Well, I’m clearly number four.” Godric muttered under his breath with a sigh. Ata turned on his lap, snuggling into him, holding him close as she dropped kisses to his exposed throat and chest in a reassuring manner. The morning he had gone up onto that roof, wanting to meet the sun, had been terrifying, horrifying even, for me. I wanted to burn with him. I refused to allow him to be alone, and yet he had commanded me to leave him. The fact Sookie stayed with him, even after I had tricked her into taking my blood, still puzzled me to this day, but I was so incredibly glad that she had. It still pained me to think of how adamant he was about burning, how much he had seemed to want it. How had he become so lost in despair? After Russell, Godric was the oldest vampire in America; he could have had the whole country if he’d wanted it.
“One is Ata, because it mentions the word ancient.” Egor took a dig from his spot near the elevator, causing Ata to pout and scowl at her Childe. I was unable to stop myself from laughing as Ata took a piece of paper from the table, scrunching it up before throwing it with impressive force at Egor. He dodged her shot while chuckling.
“ändå exakt samma.” I muttered under my breath. My fellow Vikings heard me and laughed loudly. It felt good to be in the company of those my own age, those who had been around during my years. They’d lived not too far away either; we’d grown up together! It was strange, but it was a comfort too. It was like a security net. I still needed to tell my story to Ata, Oscar and Sookie one night. Ata had told one of her stories and I’d said that I would tell one of my own.
“I love how you forget about the majestic and joyful cheer part.” Pam gave a toothy grin to Egor, flashing Ata the same smile moments later.
“Careful Pammy, you need to go to your day rest some time, and I’m sure luminous green nail polish would look great on you.” Ata teased, watching as Pam’s face fell into a look of pure horror.
“I don’t fight fair.” Ata stated, flicking her hair over her shoulder.
A smile graced Pam’s lips and I had to stop myself from gawking at her, it was very rare for my Pamela to smile. “No, you don’t, but that’s what makes you a tolerable breather.” She returned to her scribbles. It was the closest thing Pam would probably ever give to a compliment, and I could feel a tinge of Ata’s honour at receiving it. I liked it when all of my girls played nice.
In some sense we did have a little family going on. I had my father, and the woman who was fast becoming my mother; I had my brothers, my daughter, my ‘girlfriend’ and one of my close friends. Our little nest was an incredible thing, and I found myself wishing for us all to never part. Even Bubba was becoming a vital member, like some little trained pet. Not that I would ever call the challenged vampire a pet out loud, the poor guy was doing the best he could given the circumstances.
“Now four people, all of power, try to part the four. With thousands of years between them all, this riddle they will solve.” Riei recited the next lines from memory.
“Well combined together we have well over 15,630 years between us all. Godric, Riei, Oeri, Ata, Khai and myself have 12,000 years in total. Eric, Egor and Agmund have 3000 years in total, Pam has 100, Isabel has 500, Sookie has 27 and Oscar has 3.” Ari did the quick mental math. “So the second part of that section is obvious.” Pam scribbled down the mental math on the piece of paper, her handwriting as beautiful and neat as it had been during her human years. As a lady of upper class she had been expected to write numerous thank you letters and invitations throughout her life, so her penmanship was incredible. I usually asked her to write out any handwritten letters to people of importance, as my penmanship was rubbish in comparison. I’d used runes a lot as a human, and they’d simply been lines carved into wood or stone. There had been countless times in the past where I’d ripped paper from applying too much pressure on the pen, as if I were trying to carve my words once again.
“Well, Felipe and Russell are two of the four, I have no doubt about that.” Agmund chipped in, causing us all to nod. Felipe had political power on his side, and Russell had brute strength and a pack of wolves.
“Who the heck are the other two though?” Sookie frowned, rearranging herself on my lap into a more comfortable position. Her shuffling was doing nothing to calm my ‘gracious plenty’, who had been clawing for a round two ever since round one had ended earlier on.
“I don’t think we’ve pissed off that many people over the years.” Ata mused aloud, glancing to all of her boys who nodded in agreement. It didn’t surprise me that Ata had very few enemies. She was the sort of person everyone liked, and if you didn’t like her you pretend to, simply because it was easier than hating her.
“I certainly haven’t angered that many people over the years, unless you take Steve Newlin into account, but the Fellowship isn’t really that powerful anymore. Ever since he went missing six months ago they’ve all but dispersed.” Godric offered his contribution.
“I don’t think I have many enemies, I mean, I know there are people out there who think of me as some fangbanging whore, and there was Rene who tried to kill me because of it, but other than that most people just ignore me.” Sookie added. The mention of people assuming she was a fangbanging whore, mentally calling her such, caused me to growl lowly, tightening my hold on her, crushing her against my chest. My Sookie was no whore; she’d been untainted until the age of 24 and that was something to be exceptionally proud of. The redneck trash that frequented the Shifter’s bar was scum.
“You’re not a fangbanging whore, Sookie.” My Maker kindly pointed out, the word fangbanger rolling off of his tongue like bad blood.
“I know I’m not, heck I was a virgin until I was 24, but that was their thoughts, not mine.” She shrugged, taking all of their hatred on the chin. I was honestly so proud of her for putting up with everything they thought about her, all of the whispers and gossip. I was proud of her for everything, and there were very few I was proud of these days. Deciding she needed to know, I pushed my pride through to her, along with a sprinkling of love. The love I received in return was enough to drown me, and she snuggled against me, mimicking her cousins’ actions. It seemed the more time they spent with one another the more they were taking on one another’s habits. Ata had become a lot more touchy feely with others, having placed a hand on Sookie’s arm earlier to soothe her, and Sookie was becoming a lot more dependent on me for things such as comfort and reassurance, like Ata was with Godric.
We all lapsed into silence as we contemplated the possibilities, and then an idea of a third person struck me, and if I were human the idea would have made me sick. “I know who the third person is.” I stated in a murmur as everyone turned to me. Even Sookie was looking up at me from her position nestled against my chest. Sparing a glance down to her, I brushed my hand through her hair reassuringly. “The one vampire who doesn’t want Sookie and I together, who has tried to kill me numerous times in order to get me out of the way, to take Sookie as his own.
I felt, and heard, Sookie’s heart lurch as she whispered his name. “Bill.”
It’s peior quam nos sententia (Latin) = It’s worse than we thought.
ändå exakt samma (Swedish) = still exactly the same